AERO’s Value-Added Producer Success program offers educational workshops, training and resources with the goal of helping producers reduce their risks and maximize sustainable business success with home-based value-added products. We work to increase producers’ understanding of current Montana legislation regarding food licensing, registration and inspection (including new changes under SB199), and provide risk management strategies to minimize liability, maximize profitability and longevity for food enterprises, and increase consumer confidence in local food products.
The Montana Local Food Choice Act (aka SB199), passed in April 2021, fundamentally changes the landscape of what can be made in a home kitchen and sold direct to consumers. Under the new law, raw milk, poultry, and numerous other processed and value-added food items, including catered meals, pickled and canned foods, and perishable baked goods, now can be offered for sale without licensing.
AERO will provide education and training sessions throughout 2022-2023 for Montana’s value-added producers to increase their understanding of how to comply with Montana’s new law regarding direct-to-consumer sales of home kitchen produced food items. All events and resources will be offered free-of-charge.
VALUE-ADDED PRODUCT SALES UNDER THE LOCAL FOOD CHOICE ACT: Implementing Appropriate Liability Risk Management Practices
Seven workshops offered to communities across the state presented the changes under SB199 and outlined best practices for risk management under the new law. You can learn more and view a recording of the workshop through the button below.
Three trainings with expert-producers of raw milk products, preserved foods, and perishable baked goods will demonstrate best practices for safe food production and building consumer confidence in product quality. The first set of trainings was on the production of raw milk (see details below). More information forthcoming for producer trainings on preserved foods and perishable baked goods.
AERO and partners have developed a Food Safety Tool for Home Producers to help home-based, value-added producers evaluate and manage food safety risk and implement best practices in their home kitchen operation. You can download a free copy of the tool below.
We released this tool on July 18th, 2023 through a virtual workshop on Food Safety Best Practices for Home-Based Entrepreneurs. You can learn more and find a recording of the workshop here.
Understanding Liability and Opportunities for Selling Food Under the New Montana Food Choice Act
The new Montana Local Food Choice Act (or Food Freedom Law) opens up opportunities for producers and small businesses to sell additional food products without a license. Products include:
Producers who wish to sell any of the above products should be aware of the liability risk of selling without a license, registration, or inspection. That’s why this November, in partnership with Farm Commons, AERO hosted two free digital workshops addressing the opportunities and risks associated with the sale of food under the new Food Freedom Law. Farm Commons is the leading national resource for farmers and ranchers providing knowledge and skills needed to resolve key legal vulnerabilities. The series is designed to support producers and farmers’ market managers in understanding the new law and the steps to take against possible liability issues.
November 3, 2021, 3:00-4:00pm
This first workshop focused on the general legal concepts surrounding liability, especially for food related incidents. We outline when and how legal liability for a food related incident is assigned and how producers and food business owners generally manage these liabilities.
This workshop is designed to help producers manage liability and develop legal resilience regardless of whether their product is exempt from licensure under the Food Freedom Law.
November 10, 2021, 3:00-4:30pm
This second workshop focuses on the recently passed Montana Local Food Choice Act, also called the Food Freedom Law. The workshop helps producers, food manufacturers, cottage food operators and farmers’ market managers understand what is and is not permitted under the new law, clarifying the opportunities and challenges presented by the Montana Local Food Act. It also highlights the effect of the law on traditional legal liability for a food related incident.
AERO is working with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services- Food & Consumer Safety Section on a project to improve cottage food law understanding for producers and registered sanitarians across the state, and to assemble a working group to draft changes to the administrative rule for the cottage food exemption.
Registered cottage food operators, curious local food producers, sanitarians- registered and in training, joined us Tuesday, January 26 9am-2:30pm for a cottage food training.
Heidi Drivdahl-Noyes, Chief EcoManiac, EcoMontana
Karl Johnson, Owner & Operator, YES Compost
Heather Babineau-Z, Owner & Operator, Whole and Nourished
An interview with Gretchen Boyer, Executive Director of FarmHands Nourish and member of the Whitefish Farmers Market Organizing Committee who led the effort for Whitefish’s first zero-waste market season in 2020.
AERO, in support of growing local food economies, produced a series of technical assistance videos for cottage food operators. This series addresses topics identified in a statewide needs assessment, town halls, and interviews with cottage food operators. The first three videos cover marketing concepts and how these concepts apply to cottage food businesses, the next two videos address small business management and managing financial risk, and the final video is a tutorial specific to completing a cottage food registration application.
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Develop skills and gain knowledge that will set up your cottage food business for success. Continue to access cottage food resources after the workshop with our virtual toolkit. Recordings of workshop modules will be posted, along with any handouts.
MT DPHHS – Food & Consumer Safety Section
Find: Link to Cottage Food Statute
Cottage Food Application Fillable PDF
FAQs on Cottage Food & Honey
Find your county sanitarian’s office contact information
Montana’s Food Laws & Rules: Cottage food & farmers’ markets
Workshop Presentation Slides by Nina Heinzinger, PhD, RS/REHS, Public Health Sanitarian, Food & Consumer Safety Section
What ingredients are allowed in regular food?
Ingredients allowed in human food nearly always fall into one of the following categories*
1. Conventional food
2. Approved additives
3. Generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
Frequently Asked Questions About
GRAS for Substances Intended for
Use in Human or Animal Food: Guidance for Industry
All foods sold under the Texas Cottage Food Law must not require time or temperature control for safety (TCS), therefore the recipes sold here would qualify in Montana.
MT Cottage Food Business: How this all got started by Jan Tusick
Are you interested in starting a food business?
The network of 8 centers provides training, coaching and technical assistance, including:
Whether you are searching for local food ingredients for your products or getting the word out about your Montana food business, Abundant Montana would love to add you to our growing food system directory of over 330 listings.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to reach an Abundant Montana Outreach Coordinator to create your listing today
Small Business Development Centers http://sbdc.mt.gov/
MT Department of Agriculture
MT Department of Commerce
MT Secretary of State – Register your business https://biz.sosmt.gov/
Farm Commons Podcasts and Print materials to make legally resilient farm and food business decisions during COVID-19
Safe Face-to-Face Options:
Safe home kitchens, sampling, and sales to cottage food customers during COVID-19